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Missing Teen’s Body Found Inside Wrecked Stolen Car Days After It Was Impounded

Milwaukee, WI – The body of a 17-year-old boy on the floorboard of a wrecked SUV went unnoticed for four days after the stolen vehicle was towed to a city impound lot late last week.

The crash occurred near West Fond Du Lac Avenue and North 91st Street on June 1, WISN reported.

Security footage showed the driver of the Kia SUV speeding through the area and losing control just before the vehicle slammed into a tree outside the camera’s view.

Milwaukee police responded to the scene and located an injured 16-year-old boy behind the wheel of the vehicle, WISN reported.

The teen was treated by emergency medical personnel and placed under arrest.

The SUV – which police concluded was stolen – was subsequently towed to a city-owned lot without anyone realizing 17-year-old James Stokes was on the floor in the back portion of the vehicle, WABC reported.

When Stokes failed to contact his mother, Kina King, she said she began looking for him, according to WISN.

King said her son’s friends told her he had been involved in the crash, but his family said it was strange that he didn’t come home or call any of them afterwards.

She reported Stokes missing the next day, WISN reported.

“They blew me off, ‘Oh, it’s not long enough. He’s going to come back,'” King claimed.

The family said they pushed the issue with police again days later and asked them to go check for Stokes inside the wrecked vehicle, WISN reported.

Police located the teen’s body inside the SUV on Monday.

His exact cause of death has not been released.

According to Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) operating procedure, all towed vehicles must be “thoroughly searched,” WISN reported.

“This search shall encompass the entire vehicle accessible by key, including the passenger compartment, glove box and trunk,” the directive reads.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating Stokes’ cause of death, WABC reported.

The Milwaukee Department of Public Works and the MPD are looking into the circumstances that resulted in Stokes’ body being overlooked when the vehicle was towed.

King said she had warned her son about getting into trouble, WITI reported.

“If you don’t leave these streets alone, I’m going to lose you to the streets,” the grieving mother recalled having told him. “He didn’t listen.”

King said her son’s choices are part of the reason he is dead, but noted that doesn’t excuse his body being overlooked in the car or how long it took to locate him, WITI reported.

City personnel have failed to locate people inside vehicles before they were towed on at least two other occasions since 2018, WABC reported.

An eight-year-old girl was found crying inside a freezing van at a tow lot in January of 2018 after police arrested her mother during a traffic stop the night before.

The chief of the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) issued an apology in January of 2022 after his department failed to find the body of a 21-year-old woman who was still inside the burned wreckage of a vehicle when it was towed away, WABC reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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